Written by Sindhuja Prabhu
When toddlers learn to speak, the way they form the words, struggle to pronounce, and mispronounce the syllables can be very attractive and heartwarming. Some kids can take more time than others to start talking. It could be nothing, a developmental delay, or some issue with their vocal muscles. Dysarthria in toddlers can be either developmental or acquired.
When a toddler has difficulty forming certain words or slurs when pronouncing certain sounds, parents can neglect it as just baby babbling or baby speech. It is quite common for toddlers to struggle with pronunciation. However, if it is more than just a few mispronounced words, you need to consult your doctor right away to check if it is dysarthria.
In This Article
Dysarthria is a condition that paralyzes or weakens the muscles responsible for speech. It damages the nervous system and impacts control over the voice box or tongue, thus making it difficult to pronounce certain words. It can even cause slurring.
Dysarthria in toddlers is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for toddlers to form and pronounce words correctly. As a result, people can’t understand them clearly, which leads to communication problems. We can classify dysarthria in toddlers into two types according to its origin –
Damage to the brain during the fetal stage can lead to issues like cerebral palsy or other conditions that can cause dysarthria. Toddler suffering from dysarthria mostly have developmental dysarthria.
When a toddler suffers a stroke, brain tumor, accident, or a disease that affects the brain, it can lead to acquired dysarthria. This type is more common among adults than in children.
Dysarthria can be further classified into 6 different types depending on the part of the nervous system it affects. Dysarthria can result from damage to various parts of the nervous system, brain, or spinal cord. The 6 types are-
The muscles we use to speak and form words are controlled by a part of the nervous system. When this part of the nervous system suffers damage, it can affect the muscles in the throat, face, and the ones that help us breathe. As a result, it will affect speech and cause dysarthria in toddlers.
Various injuries and illnesses can also lead to acquired dysarthria in toddlers. Some illnesses that can cause acquired childhood dysarthria are-
Sometimes, the medicines you give your toddler to treat certain health conditions can also impact their speech muscles. The best way to repair this damage is to discontinue the medicines and opt for safer options that will not have such a strong impact.
Diagnosing dysarthria in toddlers can be tricky. Some start speaking early and some toddlers will need more time. They may find it difficult to pronounce certain sounds, thus making their speech sound slurry or gurgly. They may just need a little more time to develop speaking skills.
This does not mean you should ignore all warning signs and just let your toddler take time to form words or sentences. There is no harm in consulting a doctor to rule out dysarthria or other conditions.
When you notice your little one having difficulty in forming or pronouncing words, you should consult your pediatrician. They will first conduct a physical exam of the mouth and tongue to check the development of and control over the muscles. Next, they will ask your toddler to do the following before referring you to a speech specialist-
Speech therapy is the first go-to treatment option for dysarthria. Toddlers benefit from therapy as it helps improve their communication.
If dysarthria is acquired due to dentures or medications, discontinuing them can help the kid get back their speech. However, even in such cases, the toddler might require a therapist to help them develop and strengthen the muscles required for good speech.
Speech therapy for dysarthria in toddlers can help them by learning the following-
If your toddler who is just beginning to form words or is already speaking sentences shows these symptoms, you should consult your doctor without much delay-
The above symptoms indicate your toddler might be having trouble controlling the muscles responsible for speech. The symptoms can be mild or strong. It varies from case to case.
So, it is better to consult your pediatrician and express your concerns even if one of the above symptoms is present. Sometimes, your doctor can give simple exercises to help release the tension in the muscles. If it doesn’t work, they may ask you to consult a speech therapist.
Understanding a toddler with speech difficulty can be difficult even for their own family. With proper treatment and therapy, a toddler can gain control over their speech and learn to communicate confidently and effectively. The key is the right therapy and support. So, offering that to your toddler suffering from dysarthria is the best you can do for them.
Dysarthria can affect children at any age. Developmental dysarthria is discovered when the child starts speaking and acquired dysarthria can affect a child anytime.
If your child’s dysarthria is due to certain medications or dentures, therapy can improve it. However, if it is due to damage to the brain, a stroke, or some trauma, it cannot be reversed.
Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.